The public health emergency in effect since the start of the covid-19 pandemic will end on May 11, the Biden administration announced this week. The end of the so-called PHE will bring about a raft of policy changes affecting patients, health care providers, and states. But Republicans in Congress, along with some Democrats, have been agitating for an end to the “emergency” designation for months.
Meanwhile, despite Republicans’ less-than-stellar showing in the 2022 midterm elections and broad public support for preserving abortion access, anti-abortion groups are pushing for even stronger restrictions on the procedure, arguing that Republicans did poorly because they were not strident enough on abortion issues.
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Victoria Knight of Axios, Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post, and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- This week the Biden administration announced the covid public health emergency will end in May, terminating many flexibilities the government afforded health care providers during the pandemic to ease the challenges of caring for patients.
- Some of the biggest covid-era changes, like the expansion of telehealth and Medicare coverage for the antiviral medication Paxlovid, have already been extended by Congress. Lawmakers have also set a separate timetable for the end of the Medicaid coverage requirement. Meanwhile, the White House is pushing back on reports that the end of the public health emergency will also mean the end of free vaccines, testing, and treatments.
- A new KFF poll shows widespread public confusion over medication abortion, with many respondents saying they are unsure whether the abortion pill is legal in their state and how to access it. Advocates say medication abortion, which accounts for about half of abortions nationwide, is the procedure’s future, and state laws regarding its use are changing often.
- On abortion politics, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution urging candidates to “go on the offense” in 2024 and push stricter abortion laws. Abortion opponents were unhappy that Republican congressional leaders did not push through a federal gestational limit on abortion last year, and the party is signaling a desire to appeal to its conservative base in the presidential election year.
- This week, the federal government announced it will audit Medicare Advantage plans for overbilling. But according to a KHN scoop, the government will limit its clawbacks to recent years, allowing many plans to keep the money it overpaid them. Medicare Advantage is poised to enroll the majority of seniors this year.
Also this week, Rovner interviews Hannah Wesolowski of the National Alliance on Mental Illness about how the rollout of the new 988 suicide prevention hotline is going.
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Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: Axios’ “Republicans Break With Another Historical Ally: Doctors,” by Caitlin Owens and Victoria Knight
Margot Sanger-Katz: The New York Times’ “Most Abortion Bans Include Exceptions. In Practice, Few Are Granted,” by Amy Schoenfeld Walker
Rachel Roubein: The Washington Post’s “I Wrote About High-Priced Drugs for Years. Then My Toddler Needed One,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson
Victoria Knight: The New York Times’ “Emailing Your Doctor May Carry a Fee,” by Benjamin Ryan
Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:
- KFF’s “KFF Health Tracking Poll: Early 2023 Update on Public Awareness on Abortion and Emergency Contraception,” by Grace Sparks, Shannon Schumacher, Marley Presiado, Ashley Kirzinger, and Mollyann Brodie
- USA Today’s “Biden Seeks to Bolster the Affordable Care Act’s No-Cost Contraception Rule,” by Ken Alltucker
- The National Review’s “To Reduce Abortions, Should Giving Birth Be Free?” by Wesley J. Smith
- The New York Times’ “New Medicare Rule Aims to Take Back $4.7 Billion From Insurers,” by Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz
- KHN’s “Government Lets Health Plans That Ripped Off Medicare Keep the Money,” by Fred Schulte
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